Jessica Scott Kerrin on the inspiration for The Things Owen Wrote

When I was an undergraduate in Alberta, I spent a summer working for the (then) Alberta Historic Sites Services as an interpreter. I was assigned to a newly opened site called Stephansson House near Red Deer (between Calgary and Edmonton). We opened the house each day and wore 1920s period clothing in keeping with the decade that the poet-farmer named Stephan G. Stephansson died and to which period the house was restored.

Stephansson House Provincial Historic Site, near Red Deer, Alberta

I spent countless hours in the Icelandic-Canadian’s homestead surrounded by his belongings, whiling away the hours between visitors by attempting to grow a garden, baking cookies on the woodstove or spinning wool. I didn’t get very good at any of it.

Three things stayed with me over the years. First, Stephansson’s attic had become home to an enormous bat colony. We could hear and smell them through the walls. Occasionally, one would escape and make its way into the living quarters, and I would be horrified to discover it when I opened the house in the morning. Even now, I’d know that smell anywhere.

The second was the tragic way in which one of Stephansson’s sons, Gestur, died. The sixteen-year-old was attempting to get home before an approaching thunderstorm but was struck by lightning while climbing over a fence. The ghostly photograph of that boy and his nearby grave marker haunted me as I stared out over the prairies where he lay.

The third was the extraordinary contradiction between Stephansson’s fame in Iceland and his relative obscurity in Canada, owing to the fact that he wrote all of his work in Icelandic.

I recently revisited Stephansson House decades later. Nothing had changed, of course, except me. Now that I was a writer, I could appreciate how hard it must have been for him to construct poems after working the fields while his family slept through the night. I had also spent a career working with curators, archivists and translators, all of whom I now understood as being critical to Stephansson’s legacy. With this deepened awareness, I felt I had the makings for my next novel. A research trip to Iceland confirmed it. I experienced firsthand the glaciers, waterfalls, turf buildings and the family farmland that Stephansson wrote so poetically about.

One special moment comes to mind. I carefully opened the now frail travel journal he had kept aboard during his emigration to North America, which had been preserved at the national archives in Reykjavík. I scanned his list of English words and their Icelandic equivalent. Stephansson was learning a new language en route to North America. It made me gasp to finally read him in English. It felt as if he was saying, “Hello, Jessica. Nice to see you again. Now, let’s get down to writing.”

Page from Stephansson’s travel journal, now housed at the National and University Library, Reykjavík, Iceland


The Things Owen Wrote

by Jessica Scott Kerrin

Owen has always done well, even without trying that hard. He gets As in school, is an avid photographer and knows he can count on his family’s support. But then Owen makes a mistake. A big one. And now he must face his fear of disappointing his entire family.

A last-minute trip to Iceland, just Owen and his granddad, seems like the perfect way out. For Owen’s granddad, the trip is about paying tribute to a friend with Icelandic roots. But Owen has a more urgent reason for going: he must get back the notebook his granddad accidentally sent to the Iceland archive. He can’t let anyone read the things he wrote in it!

The pair gets on a plane, excited to leave their prairie town for a country of lava fields, glaciers and geysers. However, as they explore Iceland, the plan to recover Owen’s notebook starts to spiral out of control. Why does Owen’s granddad seem so confused and forgetful? And can Owen really hide the truth of what’s in his notebook?

An Excerpt from Sit by Deborah Ellis

1

THE SINGING CHAIR

Jafar was sitting on a work bench in the furniture factory.

Not sitting, exactly. Perching, like a little bird on the edge of a trash can, ready to take flight at the first sign of danger from a cat or a truck.

Or from the boss storming through looking for slackers.

As he rested his bony little body, Jafar stared into a sunbeam. It was only a second-hand sunbeam, one that bounced off the window of the coffin shop across the lane, but Jafar looked forward to it every day. It meant his workday, which began in Jakarta’s pre-dawn gray, was heading toward the end.

The second-hand sunbeam pushed through the factory gloom. It made the men and boys glow like angels as they bent over their work. The dust particles danced and sparkled in the air.

I’m in a gold factory, Jafar thought.

In the haze, the rows and rows of chairs looked like thrones meant for gods and goddesses, not just kings and queens. No wonder the workers were not allowed to sit on them.

“Don’t sit on the chairs!” Boss was always yelling at them. “The chairs are not for you and your filth.”

Jafar had to agree with Boss about that. All the boys and men in the factory were filthy. Even Boss, although he was not nearly as dirty as the rest of them.

One of Jafar’s jobs was to sweep. He swept the whole factory floor several times a day, but the dirt kept coming. Wood dust, wood shavings, grime from the sooty car and bus engines that blew in through the open wall that faced the street. The factory refused to stay clean while work was going on.

The dirt stuck to him, too. No matter how careful Jafar was with the glue and lacquer, drops always landed on his skin and clothes, and everything stuck to these drops. At the end of an especially busy day, when they rushed around to get their work done, sawing and sanding to fill orders, Jafar looked like some new kind of animal, with wood shavings for fur and soot-dust for skin. When he scratched his head with his glue-hands, the glue and wood dust made his hair stand up on the top of his head like many small ears.

“Quit daydreaming!” Boss yelled. He slapped the back of the boy’s head as he moved through the factory.

Jafar jumped. He felt a little guilty because he had been daydreaming. He was working, though, and quickly. He could work with his hands and still daydream in his head.

Jafar was sanding chairs today, the final sanding before the chairs would be loaded on a truck and taken away. His chairs would go on a journey and he would be left behind.

Who would sit on his chairs? Would it be a happy person or an angry person? Would someone sit on one of his chairs and give up on life? Would his chair be a place where a child learned arithmetic or where an old man sat to eat a meal? Would someone sit on one of his chairs to watch a sunbeam and keep watching as shadows grew and turned into night?

Jafar wanted to know, and he knew that he would never know.

These were not chairs that would be painted or polished. These were cheap chairs. They would be sold to people who still had to work hard and save long to buy them. The fancier chairs Jafar’s factory made were beyond those people, and the real carpenters worked on those. Boys like him worked on the cheaper ones.

Jafar didn’t care about not working on the fancy chairs. Work was work. Each day he worked brought him closer to paying off his family’s debt, closer to being able to keep the money he earned, closer to having a life where his belly was always full and he could take the time to find work in a place where the boss would not hit him.

“We would make perfect murderers,” said Sanu, who was a year older than Jafar but had only been at the factory for one year. Jafar had been there for three.

“What are you talking about?” Jafar asked.

Sanu held up his hands and wiggled his fingers.

“No fingerprints!” he said, laughing.

They could laugh now, but when Jafar first started sanding, his fingers got so sore and bloody!

“Get one more drop of blood on one of my chairs, you little cockroach, and I’ll send you back to your family in a garbage sack!” Boss had yelled at him.

One of the older boys had slipped Jafar a blood-stained rag.

“My fingers have healed,” he said. “You can have this now.”

“How much do I pay you?” Jafar asked.

The older boy shrugged. “Someone gave it to me. Pass it on to someone else when you’re done with it.”

The blood stayed off the chairs, Jafar was not sent home as garbage, and his fingertips grew tough and strong.

“No fingerprints. That’s a good one,” Jafar said to Sanu. “You should go tell the others. We could all be murderers!”

He laughed again, but he really needed Sanu to go to another part of the factory and leave him alone for a moment.

There was something he had to do, and he could not have any witnesses.

Sanu looked pleased with himself but made no effort to move.

“I’ll tell them later,” he said. “If I go over there now and tell them, they’ll think it came from you. They think all clever things come from you.”

Jafar looked at the rows of completed chairs. There were only a few left for him to sand. Then the whole lot would be loaded into a truck and driven away.

He could not miss his chance today! There would be other chairs and other chances, but he was ready today! Another day, he might not have the nerve.

Jafar decided to use an old trick. He started sanding viciously, really putting his muscles into making the chair leg smooth like milk, going at the bumps and slivers with all the strength of his bird-thin arms.

“What are you doing?” Sanu whispered. “The fellas have just got the boss used to the slower pace. You want the old quotas back? You want to keep working until midnight again?”

“I just feel like finishing up,” Jafar said, not slowing down one smidgen.

“Sweat by yourself, then,” Sanu said. He picked up the chair he was sanding and moved away to sit and sand more slowly with the others.

Jafar kept up his speed for a few minutes more until he heard the voice and stomp of Boss returning to the factory floor. He slowed his pace then, but kept the boss in his peripheral vision. He kept watch on everyone.

No one must guess his secret.

No one must guess that he went to school.

Boss had not told him he couldn’t go, but Jafar suspected he would if he knew about it. Boss said nasty things to workers who were smarter than he was. The other boys would make fun of him, too, if they knew. They would poke him and trip him and tell him he thought he was too good for them.

They gave him a hard enough time the day they caught him writing on a piece of scrap paper with a tiny stub of a pencil.

They grabbed his pencil and would not give it back. They tried to get his piece of paper, too, but he would not let them see what he was writing. He popped the paper in his mouth and chewed it and swallowed it. They did not get to see what he thought about the beggar on the corner, how her face looked like sunshine when she smiled. They did not get to know his private thoughts.

Anyway, he had written it clumsily. The words scrawled on the paper did not at all match the thoughts and feelings in his head.

His teacher at the school for working children read them poems. Poems told him feelings he didn’t know he had. Poems made his heart dance and his mind fly above the smoke and stench and sweat of the city.

How do writers do it? Jafar wondered for the millionth time.

Today, he had a whisper of an answer.

Today, he had completed his first poem.

He had worked on it for days, trying to find the words, the words that would say exactly what he wanted to say.

Today, the poem was done.

Six words.

Six words that told the story of him.

Six words. Today, he had to grab the time and the privacy to write down his six words and send them off into the world.

Maybe someone would discover them. Maybe someone would discover them years from now when the smooth yellow-wood chairs were gray with age and dust, the smoothness battered with dents and scratches.

Jafar kept watch for his chance.

He saw his moment.

He took a nail from his pocket. He lowered himself to the floor, tipped over the chair he was sanding and scratched his six words into the underside of the seat.

With this chair

I am there.

Boss would not like the poem on the chair. He would see it as damage. He would certainly hit Jafar if he found it, and make him pay for the damage with months and months of labor.

But Jafar needed his poem to leave his head. He needed to see it written down, and when he did, it was more beautiful than all the stars and all the flowers and all the kittens that ever were.

Quickly he pocketed the nail again and stood the chair up on its legs. He placed it in the row with the others.

Astonished at his boldness, adrenaline dashing through him, he finished sanding his last chair and put it with the others, too.

“What are you standing around for?” Boss yelled at him. “You think those chairs are going to load themselves? Move!”

Jafar carried chair after chair into the truck. The chair with his poem on it looked like all the others. But to Jafar’s touch, it hummed and buzzed with life. His life.

The driver got into the truck and started the motor.

There was clean-up to do, sweeping and more sweeping. But Jafar leaned on his broom and watched.

He watched the truck with his chair and his poem move off down the street, passing the coffin shop the sunbeam had abandoned, merging with the motorbikes, taxis and people.

Somehow, amidst the honking horns, revving engines, hawking merchants and crying babies, Jafar heard something else. Something wonderful.

He heard his chair. It was singing.

With this chair

I am there.

It was the happiest day of his life.


Sit 
By Deborah Ellis

The seated child. With a single powerful image, Deborah Ellis draws our attention to nine children and the situations they find themselves in, often through no fault of their own. In each story, a child makes a decision and takes action, be that a tiny gesture or a life-altering choice.

Monica Kulling on International Day of the Girl Child 2017

“Some of the greatest minds in the history of the world have been dismissed because they were covered with curls and bows.” — Anonymous

To mark International Day of the Girl Child, the United Nations offers this fact: “The world’s 1.1 billion girls are a source of power, energy, and creativity.”

So they are, and so they have been throughout history, even though struggling to fulfill one’s potential as a girl child was often met with derision or lack of opportunity, as it is for girls in many parts of the world today.

If you were a scientifically minded girl living in the 18th and 19th centuries, you could look forward to putting your light under a bushel, unless you were made of sterner stuff. You needed dedication to follow your passion no matter where it might lead, perseverance, a will to work hard and an independent spirit to walk a singular path. Most often, you were the only girl in your field of study. Despite these obstructions, however, many women made significant contributions to science.

Take, for example, Maria Mitchell. She was born in 1818 and became the first professional female astronomer in the United States. In 1847, Maria tracked the orbit of a new comet using the family’s small telescope! That comet is now called “Miss Mitchell’s Comet.” In her lifetime, Maria’s passion for the heavens would result in observations of sunspots, other comets, nebulae, solar eclipses, and the moons of Saturn and Jupiter.

Ynes Mexia, born in 1870, had a passion for plants. She dreamed of finding a new plant species and did so many times over! She is considered to be one of the most important botanists of the 20th century.

And then there’s Mary Anning — born into poverty in 1799. From early childhood, Mary was passionate about the strange curiosities found in the cliffs of her Dorset, England, home. Mary had little formal education and relied, it seemed, on an intuitive knowledge of the cliff faces. She was a paleontologist before the word existed. Even the word “dinosaur” did not yet exist!

And then there's Mary Anning!

Mary’s first major excavation, an Ichthyosaurus (Latin for “fish lizard”) shook the scientific world to its moldy foundations. At this time, scientists didn’t believe that species could become extinct. Mary’s find proved otherwise. Before this, scientists thought the world was only six thousand years old. Mary’s ichthyosaur proved it was two hundred million years old! And Mary didn’t stop with one fossil find. She continued to discover significant fossils throughout her life. Her story is inspirational.

So, tell your budding girl scientist that there is no limit to her universe! As Coco Chanel said, “A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.”

Mary Anning’s Ichthyosaurus Natural History Museum London Image Credit: Ghedoghedo

Mary Anning’s Ichthyosaurus at the Natural History Museum, London. Image Credit: Ghedoghedo


Mary Anning’s Curiosity

by Monica Kulling

Mary Anning, considered the world’s greatest fossilist, discovered her first big find at the age of twelve. This novel is an imaginative re-creation of her childhood in early nineteenth-century Lyme Regis.

Mary Anning may have been uneducated, poor and a woman, but her life’s work of fossil hunting led her to make many discoveries that influenced our understanding of prehistoric creatures and the age of the Earth. In 2010, Mary was named among the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science. Charles Darwin even cited Mary’s fossilized creatures as evidence in his book On the Origin of Species.

In this triumphant novel about scientific discovery, Monica Kulling brings Mary Anning and her world to life for young readers.

Coyote Tales: A new addition to your Coyote library

Two tales, set in a time “when animals and human beings still talked to each other,” display Thomas King’s cheeky humor and master storytelling skills. Freshly illustrated and reissued as an early chapter book, these stories are perfect for newly independent readers.

In Coyote Sings to the Moon, Coyote is at first the cause of misfortune. In those days, when the moon was much brighter and closer to the earth, Old Woman and the animals would sing to her each night. Coyote attempts to join them, but his voice is so terrible they beg him to stop. He is crushed and lashes out — who needs Moon anyway? Furious, Moon dives into a pond, plunging the world into darkness. But clever Old Woman comes up with a plan to send Moon back up into the sky and, thanks to Coyote, there she stays.

In Coyote’s New Suit, mischievous Raven wreaks havoc when she suggests that Coyote’s toasty brown suit is not the finest in the forest, thus prompting him to steal suits belonging to all the other animals. Meanwhile, Raven tells the other animals to borrow clothes from the humans’ camp. When Coyote finds that his closet is too full, Raven slyly suggests he hold a yard sale, then sends the human beings (in their underwear) and the animals (in their ill-fitting human clothes) along for the fun. A hilarious illustration of the consequences of wanting more than we need.

Learn More

Thomas King has written several highly acclaimed children’s books. A Coyote Solstice Tale, illustrated by Gary Clement, won the American Indian Library Association Youth Literature Award for Best Picture Book, and A Coyote Columbus Story, illustrated by William Kent Monkman, was a Governor General’s Literary Award finalist.

King, who is of Cherokee and Greek descent, was a Professor of English at the University of Guelph for many years, where he taught Native Literature and Creative Writing. He recently won the Governor General’s Literary Award for his adult novel The Back of the Turtle, and he has been nominated for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.

Now Available: Louis Undercover

 

This nuanced tale of an observant, sensitive boy finding his own brand of strength is bittersweet and beautifully composed.
Booklist, Starred Review

Britt writes with perception about the torment of first love.
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

[A] perceptive addition to graphic novel collections.
School Library Journal, Starred Review

Louis Undercover is a deceptively complex book—simple enough for children, but with enough layers to reward repeated readings by adults.
Foreword Reviews, Starred Review

 

Louis Undercover
Written by Fanny Britt
Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Translated by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou

In this powerful new graphic novel from Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault, we meet Louis, a young boy who shuttles between his alcoholic dad and his worried mom, and who, with the help of his best friend, tries to summon up the courage to speak to his true love, Billie.

A beautifully illustrated, true-to-life portrayal of just how complex family relationships can be, seen through the eyes of a wise, sensitive boy who manages to find his own way forward.

Nina Berkhout on the inspiration for The Mosaic

The inspiration for The Mosaic came from an article that appeared on my Yahoo! homepage one day — the weirdest stories show up there sometimes — about a man in Kansas who was living in a decommissioned nuclear missile silo with his wife. The silo had been active during the Cold War and he’d bought it from the US government in the 1980s for really cheap, during a time when the government was removing “old” rockets and auctioning off many of these obsolete sites that had taken billions of dollars to build. He transformed it into a cozy home (bonus being that he could survive a nuclear apocalypse in there), and it came with over thirty acres of land.

The article also mentioned that there were missiles currently active throughout the Great Plains, and that’s what really caught my attention. My research began there … For around a year I read about the weapons of mass destruction presently on high-alert status in Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota. I had no idea just how many of these nukes were actually hidden in plain sight, visible from highways, even. Imagine having to live in a town surrounded by all those killing machines, I thought. And so my story began …

My protagonist, Twyla, is a pacifist and she’s had to grow up in Halo, Montana, a community attached to Angstrom Air Force Base. Angstrom guards the missiles in the nearby fields, and its fighter jets also participate in bombings in the Middle East. Twyla hates everything that Halo represents and she wants out. But to graduate she has to fulfill volunteer hours. She gets stuck assisting Gabriel Finch, a Marine who spends all his time in the decommissioned silo on his property. Twyla thinks he’s gearing up for a shooting rampage or for Judgment Day, but as it turns out, Gabriel is working on a massive art installation – his way of coping with PTSD. Little by little, Twyla begins to realize that things aren’t as black-and-white as she assumed when it comes to warfare and those who participate in it.

You could say this story is about the looming threat of nuclear war and the impact of war on veterans, both of which it is, but more than this, to me The Mosaic is a love story. A love story between two young people living in an increasingly messed-up world. And of course, the novel is about the mosaic itself, and how art can be born from devastation.


The Mosaic

Written by Nina Berkhout

Twyla Jane Lee has one goal. To finish senior year so she can get out of her military hometown of Halo, Montana. But to graduate, she needs to complete forty hours of community service, and that means helping out a rude and reclusive former Marine named Gabriel Finch.

A young veteran of the conflicts in the Middle East, Gabriel spends his days holed up in a decommissioned nuclear missile silo on his family farm. Twyla assumes he’s just another doomsday prepper, readying his underground shelter for Armageddon. But soon she finds out the truth, and it takes her breath away.

Gradually the two misfits form a bond, and Twyla begins to unearth the secrets that have left the Marine battling ghosts. Her discoveries force her to question her views on the wars until she realizes that even if she gets out of Halo, she won’t ever be able to leave Gabriel Finch’s story behind her.

A beautifully written and thought-provoking novel about a teen facing the collision of love, ideals and uncertainty about her own future.

“Captain Canada” Ian Wallace reflects on forty years of storytelling

In my home stands a tall, finely crafted cabinet of curiosities. Its contents represent the four decades I have traveled Canada from sea to sea to sea, telling stories in words and pictures.

On those journeys, I flew over jagged Rocky Mountain peaks; crisscrossed golden prairies; traversed frozen tundra, boreal forests, pristine lakes and rivers; and swept over glistening icebergs. I visited cities and towns, villages and outports with arresting names like Come By Chance, Sheshatshit, Moose Jaw and Zeballos.

When not telling stories, I went salmon fishing off Vancouver Island and dogsledding with world-champion musher Eddy Streeper in northern British Columbia.

I was taken on a caribou hunt with Dene hunters in the Northwest Territories and stood on the Arctic Circle when the temperature hovered at -48 degrees Celsius (-54 degrees Fahrenheit).

On the shore of Pipestone Creek in northern Alberta, I encountered a cliff that held dinosaur bones, most likely of the Pachyrhinosaurus, in strata of dark sediment.

One November night I witnessed a rare sight, a solely red aurora borealis dancing in a wintery Whitehorse sky.

I ate things I’d never eaten before. Bannock and Arctic char, seal flipper pie and cod tongues, bear, elk, caribou and moose.

I met children, teens and adults from every walk of life, ethnicity and faith, and made new friends across the country.

One day I realized that this vast land was a nation of families and diverse neighborhoods, and that I had left a piece of myself in each one — and they in me. Always, I was welcomed with kindness, generous hospitality and good humor.

As the decades passed, the number of kilometers I traveled clicked into the tens of thousands, the number of provinces and territories climbed, the number of young people I read to approached one million and counting, causing a close friend to nickname me “Captain Canada.”

Often, teachers and librarians shared intimate stories of the impact my books had had on their students and readers. In elementary schools, my stories enabled two sensitive young girls, both select mutes, to speak for the first time in several years. One university student told me how my author/ illustrator visit had impacted him so profoundly that he decided that day to become an artist. Each story left me deeply touched and gratified.

I was given countless thanks-for-coming gifts: mugs, thermoses, pens, T-shirts, handwritten notes and notepads, student writing and art, and occasionally, something handcrafted by a town artisan to remind me of the community.

In one Winnipeg elementary school I found the greatest gift of my life — a teacher/librarian who became my wife.

Each of these gifts and experiences has become part of my curiosity cabinet. Most are not priceless treasures to anyone but me, yet they remind me of the extraordinary adventures I have had and the people who have enriched my life all across this land. As a child, I never could have imagined the wondrous life I would lead.

Come and take a look inside.


The Curiosity Cabinet
Written by Ian Wallace

Ian Wallace, one of Canada’s best-known children’s book creators, invites us to look inside his cabinet of curiosities, which contains treasures from his decades of traveling the country from sea to sea to sea, sharing stories with young readers.

Over the past forty years, Ian Wallace has made thousands of school and library visits in tiny communities, towns and huge cities all across this land. Some of these visits have inspired young readers to become artists themselves; others have moved children to speak or act in new ways; others have simply given rise to the laughter and sheer delight that come from a good book. In return, Ian has been the recipient of many gifts himself, from the wide range of experiences he has had to the mementos made by young children or artists in the communities he has visited. All these gifts come together in his cabinet of curiosities — an eclectic and personal collection that nonetheless represents and appreciates our rich and varied land.

Each double-page illustration shows a shelf in the cabinet dedicated to a province or territory with the gifts or special memories Ian has from that place — tamarack geese made by Cree artists in northern Ontario, a fishing-stage facade from Newfoundland, the Douglas fir trees in Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island, and much more.

Canoeing on Pickerel Lake with Jean E. Pendziwol

There’s nothing quite like waking up to the haunting laugh of a loon and the wind whispering through the pine trees, then slipping out of a warm sleeping bag to peek through the tent screen and watch the sun rise.

We’ve canoed as a family since our children were young, paddling the Boundary Waters along the Canada / US border, Quetico Provincial Park, and once, into an isolated and somewhat mysterious wooden castle built on White Otter Lake. We fell in love with being on the water, the scent of pine needles under our bare feet, swimming off the rocks, watching wildlife, cooking over the campfire and, of course, fishing.

I wrote Me and You and the Red Canoe to capture the magical moment of early morning on a lake, of that special time when the world is just waking up and the fish are, hopefully, biting. It was inspired by our many canoe trips, and is as much about simply slowing down, looking around and appreciating the amazing world around us as it is about the beauty of the Canadian landscape.

The stunning illustrations by Phil capture the scenery of my Northwestern Ontario paddling adventures and the Algonquin Park area that he is more familiar with. This August, I was able to take a short trip into Quetico Provincial Park’s Pickerel Lake and I snapped a few pictures of our time there.

Here’s hoping you get the chance to slip away to a quiet lake and trail a lure through the blue-green depths, spinning, twirling, dancing.

Our campsite this year was on a small island close to several other islands. On the one adjacent to us was an aerie, and the eaglet called continuously for its mother. Only the mature birds have white heads and tails.

My daughter, Erin, who is now grown and living in BC, came along on this trip. I’m paddling in the helmsman position, steering the canoe, and she’s in the bow, the avant in voyageur terms.

Not an early-morning paddle, but this captures some of the Quetico scenery.

There are sandy beaches as well as lovely rocky areas, perfect for camping on.

We had a loon or two visit us every day, and we could hear them calling, especially in the evenings.

The root system of this pine almost seemed to be gripping the rocks.

Our campsite had the perfect spot to sit and watch the sunset.

Sometimes we cast a line right from shore. You never know!

And sure enough! There was a smallmouth bass lurking in the rocks just off the point.

The best breakfast ever: fresh pickerel (walleye) cooked over the open fire.

This brigade passed by our campsite just as the sun was setting.


Me and You and the Red Canoe
Written by Jean E. Pendziwol
Illustrated by Phil

In the stillness of a summer dawn, two siblings leave their campsite with fishing rods, tackle and bait, and push a red canoe into the lake. A perfect morning on the water unfolds, with thrilling glimpses of wildlife along the way.

Now Available: Only In My Hometown

The northern lights shine, women gather to eat raw caribou meat and everyone could be family in this ode to small-town life in Nunavut, written in English and Inuktitut.

Sisters Angnakuluk Friesen and Ippiksaut Friesen collaborate on this story about what it’s like to grow up in an Inuit community in Nunavut. Every line about the hometown in this book will have readers thinking about what makes their own hometowns unique. With strong social studies curriculum connections, Kisimi Taimaippaktut Angirrarijarani / ᑭᓯᒥ ᑕᐃᒪᐃᑉᐸᒃᑐᑦ ᐊᖏᕐᕋᕆᔭᕋᓂ / Only in My Hometown introduces young readers to life in the Canadian North, as well as the Inuit language and culture.

Angnakuluk’s simple text, translated into Inuktitut and written out in syllabics and transliterated roman characters, is complemented by Ippiksaut’s warm paintings of their shared hometown.

Learn More

Recipe: Yarrow Tea

Written in Cree and English, Caitlin Dale Nicholson’s nipêhon / I Wait is a sweet story about a little girl who picks wild yarrow with her mother and grandmother. The book includes a recipe for yarrow tea, which is known for its refreshing, soothing effects. We’ve included the recipe here.

 

Yarrow Tea

4 cups water
4 tablespoons yarrow flowers and leaves, fresh or dried

Bring water to a boil, then add yarrow.
Steep for five minutes, strain and enjoy.
Drink hot or cold — hot to relieve a fever.

 

wâpanêwask nihtiy

nêwo minihkwâcikana nipiy
nêwo êmihkwânisak wâpanêwask wâpikwaniya, oski-nîpiya ahpô ê-pâstêki.

kisâkamisa nipiy; ohtêki, êkota wâpanêwask ka-takonên.
pêho niyânan cipahikanisa, sîkopwâtina êkwa minihkwê.
kika-kî-minihkwân ê-kisâkamitêk ahpô ê-tahkâkamik — ê-kisâkamitêyik ka-miyoskâkow awiyak ê-kisisot.

 

ᐋᐧᐸᓀᐊᐧᐢᐠ ᓂᐦᑎᕀ

ᓀᐅᐧ  ᒥᓂᐦᑳᐧᒋᑲᓇ   ᓂᐱᕀ
ᓀᐅᐧ  ᐁᒥᐦᑳᐧᓂᓴᐠ  ᐋᐧᐸᓀᐊᐧᐢᐠ  ᐋᐧᐱᑲᐧᓂᔭ, ᐅᐢᑭ  ᓃᐱᔭ  ᐊᐦᐴ  ᐁ  ᐹᐢᑌᑭ᙮

ᑭᓵᑲᒥᓴ  ᓂᐱᕀ;  ᐅᐦᑌᑭ,  ᐁᑯᑕ ᐋᐧᐸᓀᐊᐧᐢᐠ  ᑲ  ᑕᑯᓀᐣ᙮
ᐯᐦᐅ  ᓂᔮᓇᐣ  ᒋᐸᐦᐃᑲᓂᓴ,  ᓰᑯᐹᐧᑎᓇ  ᐁᑲᐧ  ᒥᓂᐦᑫᐧ᙮
ᑭᑲ  ᑮ  ᒥᓂᐦᑳᐧᐣ  ᐁ  ᑭᓵᑲᒥᑌᐠ  ᐊᐦᐴ  ᐁ  ᑕᐦᑳᑲᒥᐠ  —  ᐁ  ᑭᓵᑲᒥᑌᔨᐠ  ᑲ  ᒥᔪᐢᑳᑯᐤ  ᐊᐃᐧᔭᐠ  ᐁ  ᑭᓯᓱᐟ᙮


nipêhon / I Wait
Caitlin Dale Nicholson with Leona Morin-Nelson

A young child, her grandmother and mother are going out to pick wild yarrow. As Grandmother gets ready, the child and her mom wait. Grandmother leads the way to the field of blossoms, where they can finally start to pick … only now they have to wait for Mom!

The simple story, written in Cree and English and accompanied by rich acrylic illustrations, shows the patience, love and humor involved as three generations accommodate one another on a family outing. nipêhon / ᓂᐯᐦᐅᐣ / I Wait was translated by Leona Morin-Neilson, who was the inspiration for the book.

This companion volume to niwîcihâw / I Help includes a recipe for yarrow tea, known for its refreshing and soothing effects. The recipe is reproduced here.

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